Oh Wow! Celebrates ’Engineered Pi Day,’ 3/14/16

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – Visitors to Oh Wow! The Roger & Gloria Jones Children’s Center for Science & Technology celebrated Pi Day Monday by donating fruit pies to the Rescue Mission of Mahoning Valley, continuing to write its numeric value on a wall and with hula hoops.

“We want to make kids aware that pi happens in nature all the time,” said Colleen Ruby, director of visitor services at Oh Wow, as 10 second-graders from Austintown Elementary School kept hula hoops in motion around their waists.

Pi is the ratio of the circumference of a circle to its diameter, which has been computed to more than one trillion digits without coming to a conclusion or determining a repeating pattern.

And while the value of pi has been computed to beyond a trillion digits, not one zero has appeared.

The value of pi to seven decimal places — 3.1415925 – is sufficient to accurately measure the circumference of Earth within an inch, said Eric Wingler, a professor of mathematics at Youngstown State University.

The value of pi to 39 decimal places suffices to accurately compute the volume of the universe.

Yesterday was “Engineered Pi Day,” Ruby noted, because Americans write its value, 3.14159, rounded to 3.1416, as 3/14/16 on their calendars. And Congress has officially designated March 14 as Pi Day, adopting such a resolution in 2009.

The Greek-Roman mathematician Ptolemy calculated the value of pi as 3.1416 around 150 CE.

By a fortuitous coincidence, Ruby noted, Albert Einstein was born on a March 14 — in 1879.

The 90 to 100 second-graders on the field trip could celebrate Pi Day unlike the other 300 or so who follow them to the center today, Wednesday and Thursday. For them the three days will be like any other field trip to Oh Wow.

Before yesterday, visitors had, over three years, carefully colored the value of pi to the 199th decimal place, using a different color for each number one through nine. Pupils from Austintown picked up the appropriate pencils to add a couple of more digits.

Nikki Kramer, who teaches algebra I and II at Austintown Fitch High School, and her husband, Ryan, took their sons, Benjamin, 3, and Dominic, 1½, to Oh Wow to observe Pi Day. Mrs. Kramer “took a personal day to be here,” she said.

This is her second year.

As were most Oh Wow staff and several visitors, Kramer was wearing a T-shirt with a pi theme, her shirt brown with pictures of two pumpkins and a slice of pumpkin pie. The left pumpkin was surrounded by white lines (circumference) divided by pumpkin bisected by straight white lines (diameter) followed by an equal sign and the piece of pie with a dollop of whipped cream.

By 11:30 a.m., Rescue Mission ambassador Christal Eckman had a small number of pies, mostly apple, cherry and blueberry, on the table before her. Adults who came with pies to donate were admitted for $3.14 instead of the regular admission price.

The pies will be served at dinner tonight and at lunch tomorrow at the Rescue Missions, Eckman said.

Other trivia about pi:

  • An Indian man has memorized and recited the value of pi, blindfolded and without error, to 70,000 decimal places.
  • In 1706, William Jones, an Englishman, was the first to use pi as the symbol to denote the ratio of the diameter to the circumference. He chose pi, the Greek “P,” to refer to the perimeter of a circle. The Swiss mathematician Leonard Euler popularized Jones’ use of pi in 1737.
  • The Greek mathematician Archimedes was the first to compute pi by inscribing a regular hexagon inside a circle and then regular polygons with an ever-increasing number of sides – sides whose distance he could measure — in a circle until the polygon approximates a circle as closely as possible. Archimedes could produce only an upper and lower limit for the value of pi.
  • Even though pi has been computed to more than one trillion decimal places, as with Archimedes, the numeric value we use today remains only the best possible approximation.

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